!• LINCOLN ROOM
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS
the Class of 1901
HARLAN HOYT HORNER
HENRIETTA CALHOUN HORNER
St. Gaddens' Statue of Lincoln, in Lincoln Park, Chicago.
SAMUEL SCOVILLE, Jr.
AUTHOR OF "brave DEEDS OF UNION SOLDIERS," ETC.
AMERICAN SUNDAY-SCHOOL UNION
1816 Chestnut Street
Copyright, 1918, by the
American Sunday-School Union
All righta reserved
To My Wife
KATHARms Trumbull Scoville
The author takes this opportunity of ex-
pressing his obhgation to Dr. Taicott WiUiams,
head of the Department of Joiunahsm of
Columbia University, for access to his scrap-
book of Lincolniana, covering a period of
many years. For the facts and in some cases
for the phrasing of parts of this sketch the
author is indebted to the host of unknown
writers included in Dr. Williams' collection.
The author has also consulted and made use
of the following works: Abraham Lincoln: A
History, by John G. Nicolay and John Hay;
The Life of Abraham Lincoln, by Ida M. Tar-
bell; Abraham Lincoln — The Boy and the Man,
by James Morgan; Abraham Lincoln the Chris-
tian, by Rev. William J. Johnson; Lincoln the
Laivyer, by Frederick T. Hill; Life of Abraham
Lincoln, by J. G. Holland; and The Complete
Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by John
G. Nicolay and John Hay. Wherever pos-
sible the writer has allowed Lincoln to speak
Samuel Scoville, Jr.
Philadelphia, March, 1918.
More than haK a century ago the feet of
this nation had slipped to the very brink of
the pit and were scorched with fire. Then came
the Man. Still his words ring down the years
a message to us who are today giving of our
best for the freedom of the world :
"This conflict will settle the question, at
least for centuries to come, whether man is
capable of governing himseK, and consequently
is of greater importance to the free than to
"We shall nobly save or meanly lose the
last, best hope of earth."
"Government of the people, by the people,
and for the people, shall not perish from the
I. The Boy 13
II. The Man 21
III. The Lawyer 33
IV. The Speaker 45
V. The Statesman 54
VI. The Christian 65
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
St. Galtdens' Statue of Lincoln Frontispiece.
Birthplace and White House 16
Lincoln in Early Manhood 38
Barnard's Statue of Lincoln 46
Lincoln and McClellan at Antietam 58
Lincoln and His Son "Tad" 66
In every century are born men whose lives
bring messages of help and hope tx) those who
come Eifter. Such an one was Abraham Lin-
coln. The year of his birth, 1809, was a hon-
year. Charles Darwin was born the same day;
Mendelssohn, Edgar Allen Poe, Ohver Wendell
Holmes, Alfred Tennyson, and WilKam Ewart
Gladstone in the same year. Few boys of today
start hfe so handicapped by hardships or with
fewer opportunities. Lincoln knew little about
his ancestors. In later Ufe he said that he was
more concerned to know what his grandfather's
grandson would be than who his grandfather
One of his grandfathers was named Abraham
Lincoln, and went as a pioneer to Kentucky —
then the ''Dark and Bloody Ground" claimed
and guarded by fierce Indian tribes. There,
near where the city of Louisville now stands,
he cleared a field in the forest, not far from a
stockade erected by other settlers, and built
a cabin. A schoolmaster of that time remem-
14 ABRAHAM LINCOLN : HIS STORY
bers boarding in a similar cabin, which had but
one room sixteen feet square, where hved a
father, mother, ten children, three dogs, and
two cats. It was so cold at night that he slept
on his shoes in order to prevent them from
freezing too stiff to be worn the next day.
One morning in the year 1784 this first
Abraham Lincoln started with his three sons,
Mordecai, Josiah, and Thomas, to work at a
little clearing near the cabin. Suddenly from
a near-by thicket sounded the crack of a rifle,
and this first Kentucky Lincoln fell back dead.
Josiah ran to the stockade for help. Mordecai
dashed back to the cabin and took down his
father's rifle just as an Indian, in full war paint,
reached Thomas, a httle boy of six, who had
stayed by his father's body. It was necessary
to shoot quick and straight to save his brother's
life. Aiming through a loophole at a white
string of wampum on the Indian's breast,
Mordecai dropped him dead while Thomas
escaped into the cabin. From there Mordecai
fought off the other Indians until help came
from the stockade.
The sight of his father's death turned this
oldest boy Mordecai into an Indian-hunter,
and he spent his life in stalking and kilHng
Indians wherever he could find them. Thomas,
the father of Abraham Lincoln, grew up a
THE BOY 15
wandering laboring boy, with just enough
education to write his name. Drifting from
one job to another he became a carpenter and
married Nancy Hanks, the niece of the man in
whose shop he worked. The young couple
went to housekeeping in a log cabin which had
one room, one door, and one window, and was
furnished with a spinning-wheel, a loom, and
a feather bed.
There, in Hardin County, Kentucky, on
February 12, 1809, Abraham Lincoln was born,
and there he hved until he was seven years old.
Lincoln's only playmate was his sister, and his
playground the lonely forest. With this sister
he went to school now and then under wander-
ing school-teachers, who held school in a de-
serted cabin made of round logs with a dirt
floor and small holes for windows covered with
greased paper. There he learned his alphabet.
The War of 1812 was being fought at this
time. "I had been fishing one day," he once
told a friend in speaking about these times,
"and had caught a little fish, which I was tak-
ing home. I met a soldier in the road and hav-
ing been told at home that we must be good to
the soldiers, I gave him my fish."
In April, 1816, Thomas Lincoln sold his
farm for four hundred gallons of whiskey and
twenty dollars, built a raft, and started down
16 ABRAHAM LINCOLN: HIS STORY
the Ohio River to find a new home in Indiana.
On the way the raft capsized, but he saved his
tools and most of the whiskey. On the Indiana
shore he chose some land for his new farm and
then went back for his family. The last thing
that the little boy remembers of his Kentucky
home was that his mother took him and his
sister to say good-bye to the little brother whom
they were leaving behind in an unmarked
grave in the wilderness.
On two borrowed horses, with some bedding
and a few pans and kettles, the Lincoln family
cut their way through the forest for eighteen
miles to Little Pigeon Creek. There Thomas
Lincoln hmriedly built a shed out of saphngs
entirely open on one side, and in this the family
lived a whole year while he cleared a cornpatch
and built a rough cabin.
M through the freezing winter storms they
huddled together in this rude camp. Finally
the new log cabin was built and the family
moved in. One can gain an idea of how hur-
riedly and roughJy it was put together from a
memorandum made by Abraham Lmcoln in
later years: "A few days after the completion
of his eighth year," he wrote, "in the absence of
his father, a flock of wild turkeys approached
the new log cabin, and Abraham, w^th a new
rifle gun, standing inside, shot through a crack
Lincoln's Birthplace, near HoDGEN^^LI.E, Kt.
Thk White House as Lincoln Entered It.
From photograph taken in 1861.
THE BOY 17
and killed one of them. He has never since
pulled trigger on any larger game."
The cabin had no window other than the
large cracks which he mentions, nor any door
to shut out the sleet and snow which drifted
in through the doorway. The bare earth which
served for a floor turned to mud during the
winter thaws. The little boy's bed was a heap
of loose leaves in a loft, which he reached by
climbing up on pegs driven into the wall. Some-
times the family had nothing to eat but roast
potatoes, and a neighbor remembers that
peeled, sliced raw potatoes were passed around
for dessert. Sometimes on cold days the chil-
dren would carry a hot roast potato with them
on their way to school to keep their hands
warm. "They were pretty pinching times,"
wrote Abraham Lincoln in after years.
In 1818, when Abraham was nine years old,
a mysterious disease nearly wiped out the
small community at Little Pigeon Creek. It
was called the "milk-sick" and attacked cattle
and humans alike. Nancy Hanks Lincoln was
stricken down with it. There was no doctor
within thirty-five miles, and under the swift
fever she died before one could be called. Her
last message to her boy, as she lay dying, was
to be good to his father and sister, and to love
his kin and worship God. She was buried in a
18 ABRAHAM LINCOLN: HIS STORY
rude coffin on a knoll near by, with no prayer
or service over the grave. Months later the
little boy learned to write, and his first letter,
addressed to a wandering preacher, brought
the latter to preach a funeral sermon over the
lonely, snow-covered grave.
Before the next winter was over, the father
went back to Kentucky and so successfully
courted a widow, Sarah Bush Johnston, that
they were married the morning after he called
upon her. This second marriage was the begin-
ning of a better fife for the two little Lincoln
children. The new mother had so much prop-
erty that a four-horse team was needed to
bring it all to Little Pigeon Creek ; and for the
fii'st time in his life Abraham Lincoln slept on a
feather bed, with a pillow and blankets and
even a quilt. From her, too, he received his
first woolen shirt, which took the place of the
deerskin one that he had always worn before.
The shiftless father was forced to make a door,
lay a floor, and cut out a window, which was
covered with greased paper instead of glass.
Sarah Bush Lincoln was an honest, energetic
Christian woman, who learned to love Abra-
ham quite as dearly as her own children. He
owed much to her love and care. It was she
who persuaded the father to let him go to
school. The boy would walk nine miles a day
THE BOY 19
and do his studying at night in the light of a
fire made from shavings, while his figuring was
done with a bit of charcoal on the back of a
wooden shovel, which he would whittle clean
when it could hold no more. His pen was the
quill of a turkey buzzard, and his ink was made
from the juice of a brier-root. Altogether he
had in his whole life less than a year of school-
ing, but he learned to read and spell and write
and cipher to the rule of three.
One day a wagon broke down in the road
near the house, and a woman with her two
daughters stayed with the Lincolns over night.
She had some books and told the children some
stories. For the first time Abraham discovered
what opportunity and happiness books can
bring to those who learn to read them. From
that day on he borrowed and read every book
that he could get for miles around. One of the
earliest writings which we have of his is a copy-
book form which he set for a neighbor:
Good boys, who to their books apply.
Will all be great men by and by.
There were six books which he read and read
and reread. These books were the Bible,
JEsop's Fables, Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress,
Robinson Crusoe, A History of the United States,
and Weems's Life of Washington. The last-
20 ABRAHAM LINCOLN: HIS STORY
named book was damaged by the rain which
drove in one night through the cracks in the
cabin, and Lincoln had to pull fodder in the
owner's cornfield for three whole days in order
to pay for it. The book belonged to one "Blue-
Nose" Crawford, and Lincoln afterward wrote
a poem about him, making fun of his stinginess,
— but he paid for the book. He kept on borrow-
ing and reading until, as he later said, he had
jQnished every book to be obtained within a
radius of fifty miles.
There are not many records left of his boy-
hood. Those that have come down to us are
all kindly ones. Once he saved the life of the
village drunkard, whom he found freezing by
the roadside, cai'rying liim in his arms to the
tavern and working over him until he was out
of danger. Another time, it was remembered,
he rescued a mud turtle from some children
who were putting red-hot coals on its shell.
The words of his stepmother can best sum up
the story of his boyhood: "I can say that Abe
never gave me a cross word or look, and never
refused to do anything I asked him. I had a
son, John, who was raised with Abe. Both
were good boys, but I must say that Abe was
the best boy I ever saw."
Lincoln's staived and straitened boyhood
stretched out mto a manhood that seemed to
hold Httle but poverty and toil. As he grew
large enough he began to work out as a
farmhand and afterward as a llatboatsman.
Every yard of the brown jeans dyed with wal-
nut juice which he wore was earned by splitting
rails. A day's work lasted from sunrise to sun-
set and brought him in twenty-five cents.
Listen to the story of Lincoln's first dollar:
I was about eighteen years of age and belonged, as
you know, to what they call down South the "scrubs."
I was very glad to have the chance of earning something,
and supposed each of the men would give me a couple
of bits. I sculled them out to the steamer. They got
on board, and I lifted the trunks and put them on the
deck. The steamer was about to put on steam again,
when I called out, "You have forgotten to pay me."
Each of them took from his pocket a silver half-dollar
and threw it on the bottom of my boat. You may think
it was a very little thing, and in these days it seems to
me like a trifle, but it was a most important incident
in my life. I could scarcely credit that I, a poor boy,
had earned a dollar in less than a day; that by honest
work I had earned a dollar. I was a more hopeful and
thoughtful boy from that time.
It was on a trip to New Orleans on a flatboat
with John Hanks that he saw, for the first time,
men and women put up on a block and sold as
22 ABRAHAM LINCOLN: HIS STORY
slaves. Lincoln turned to Hanks and said,
"John, if I ever get a chance to hit this thing,
. . . rU hit it hard."
In 1831 he went to New Salem, on the San-
gamon River, twenty miles northwest of
Springfield. The town consisted of only fifteen
houses all built of logs. Lincoln reached there
on election day and the clerk of election needed
a helper. Seeing Lincohi hanging around the
polls he asked him whether he could write.
"Well," said Lincoln, "I can make a few rabbit
He got the job and afterward was hired as
a clerk in the village store. It was there that
he laid the foundation of his reputation for
absolute honesty. Finding one evening that
he had taken six cents too much from a cus-
tomer, he walked three miles that night, after
the store was closed, to return the money.
Another time, in weighing out half a pound of
tea, he made a mistake of four ounces. Dis-
covering this mistake the first thing in the
morning, he closed the store until he could
dehver the rest of the tea.
While he was still a clerk in this store the
Black Hawk Indian War broke out. There was
a call for volunteers and Abraham Lincoln was
elected captain. The other candidate was a
man named Kirkpatrick, who had once hired
THE MAN 23
Lincoln and cheated him out of two dollars in
wages. Lincoln afterward wrote that no other
success in life ever gave him so much satisfaction.
He did not make a great record as a military
man. In after-life he used to tell how he got his
men through a gateway into a field: "I could
not for the life of me remember the right word
of command for getting my company endwise,
so that it could get through the gate; so when
we came near I shouted, 'This company is
dismissed for two minutes, when it will fall in
again on the other side of the gate.' "
Lincoln did not win much glory in this
campaign, but at some risk to himself he saved
the life of a helpless old Indian whom his men
wished to kiU.
When he came back to New Salem, in part-
nership with a man named Berry he opened a
store, giving his notes in payment for the stock.
Berry ran the business heavily into debt and
died. Instead of going through bankruptcy
Lincoln sold out, shouldered the burden for
fifteen years, and paid off every doUar of the
debt with interest.
Later on he became the postmaster at New
Salem. Most of the letters he carried around
in his hat and delivered to his neighbors at
their cabins on his way to work — one of the
earliest systems on record of rural free-delivery.
24 ABllAIIAM LINCOLN: HIS STORY
At length came a chance to secure an ap-
pointment as deputy state surveyor. The only
difficulty was that Lincoln knew absolutely
nothing about surveying. He borrowed a
textbook and, with the help of a schoolmaster
friend, worked night and day for six weeks.
At the end of that time, pale and haggard but
a master of surveying, he got the job.
It was about this time that he fell in love
with the beautiful Ann Rutledge, wiio died soon
after they became engaged. "My heart is
buried there," he said to a friend when they
once passed her grave. There is no doubt that
Lincoln was a changed man after her death and
that her loss deepened his life. This thought
has been nobly plu"ased by Edgar Lee Masters
in the epitaph which he has written for her
almost unmarked grave:
Out of me, unworthy and unknown.
The vibrations of deathless music:
"With mahce toward none, with charity for all."
Out of nie the forgiveness of millions toward millions,
And the beneficent face of a nation
Shining with justice and truth.
I am Anne Rutledge who sleep beneath these weeds.
Beloved in life of Abraham Lincoln,
Wedded to him, not through union.
But through separation.
Bloom forever, O Republic,
From the dust of my bosom!
In 1834 Lincoln was elected to the state
THE MAN 25
legislature and went to Springfield to live.
He reached that town on a borrowed horse,
with all of his possessions in a couple of saddle-
bags, and accepted the offer of Joshua Speed,
a storekeeper, to share his room and bed until
he got a start. Going upstairs Lincoln set his
saddlebags on the floor and coming down said
beamingly, "Well, Speed, I'm moved."
In 1842 Lincoln married Mary Todd, a
spirited, pretty Kentucky girl. They lived
at the Globe Tavern at four dollars a week.
He wrote to a friend who had invited him to
visit in Kentucky: "I am so poor, and make so
little headway, that I drop back in a month
of idleness as much as I would gain in a year's
Here is Lincoln's own account of his appear-
ance at this time: "I am in height six feet four
inches nearly, lean in flesh, weighing on an
average of a hundred and eighty pounds, dark
complexion, with coarse, black hair and gray
eyes. No other marks or brands recollected."
He always had unusual strength and en-
durance. Once he picked up and carried a
weight of six hundred pounds. At another
time he shouldered some posts which several
men were vainly trying to lift with a hoisting
machine. In harness he was able to lift a dead
weight of half a ton off the ground. Moreover,
26 ABRAHAM LINCOLN: HIS STORY
he was able to use this strength in protecting
himself when it became necessary. At New
Salem, when forced into a fight, he whipped
Jack Armstrong, the leader of the Clary's
Grove gang, and then with his back to the
wall held his own against the rest of the gang,
all of whom afterward became his devoted
friends and supporters
Throughout life Lincoln was a melancholy
man. He thus wrote about himself in 1841 to
his friend and partner Stuart: "I am now the
most miserable man living. If what I feel
were equally distributed to the whole human
family, there would not be one cheerful face
on earth. Whether I shall ever be better, I
cannot tell; I awfully forebode I shall not."
He fought this natural despondency with
his stories, when many another man would
have given in to it. Of this use of stories
I am not a story-teller. Often by the use of a story
I can illustrate a point, or take the sting out of a re-
fusal to grant a request. Sometimes, too, the telling
of a good story or the Ustening to one lightens the
load of sorrow and suffering that one in my position
has to bear; but it is a mistake to think that I am a
humorist or teU stories for the laugh that is in them.
Most of his stories come under this, his own
description of them, as when, at one of the
receptions given by him when President, a
THE MAN 27
Virginia farmer pushed his way through the
crowd and told him that some Union soldiers
had carried off his hay. "I hope, Mr. Presi-
dent," he ended, "that you'll see that I'm
Mr. Lincoln's only reply was to tell him the
story of Jack Chase, the river captain. Once
when he was piloting a steamer through the
rapids and straining every nerve and muscle
to follow the narrow channel, a boy pulled his
coat-tail and shouted in his ear above the roar
of the waters: "Say, Mr. Captain, I wish
you'd stop the boat a minute. I've dropped
my apple overboard."
At other times his whimsical droUery and
quaint flashes of humor were efforts, perhaps
unconscious, to relieve the rooted melancholy
of his hfe. "Why, Mr. President, do you black
your own boots.*^" exclaimed Charles Sumner
when he found Mr. Lincoln so engaged at the
White House. "Whose boots did you think
I blacked .^^" responded the President.
Another time, when he was visiting the
Union army, a young officer pushed his way
through the crowd and complained to him bit-
terly that Colonel Sherman, as he was then,
had threatened to shoot him.
"Did he threaten to shoot you.^" exclaimed
28 ABRAHAM LINCOLN : HIS STORY
"Yes, shoot me!" the officer assured him
Leaning over to him Lincoln said in a stage
whisper, "Well, if I were you and Sherman had
threatened to shoot me, I wouldn't trust him
for a moment — for I believe he'd do it."
Early in life Lincoln resolved not to weigh
himself down with bad habits. He led a
straight, clean hfe morally. What he said
about the women of America at the end of
the Civil War can be quoted as his attitude
toward women during his entire life:
"If all that has been said by orators and
poets since the creation of the world in praise
of women were applied to the women of Amer-
ica, it would not do them justice for their con-
duct during this war. I wiU close by saying,
'God bless the women of America.' "
He neither drank nor smoked. In the early
forties he wrote to George E. Pickett, after-
ward a Confederate general:
"I have just told the folks here in Spring-
field, on the hundred-and-tenth anniversary
of Washington's birthday, that the one victory
we can ever call complete will be that one
which proclaims that there is not one slave nor
one drunkard on the face of God's green earth.
Recruit for this victory!"
The picture of his inner life is a harder one
THE MAN 29
to draw than that of his appearance and habits.
There were two men in Lincoln. One of them
was the Lincoln known to all his townsfolk —
the plain, honest, shrewd, kindly, humorous
man, with a certain native dignity which kept
them from calling him by his first name. "He
was folky but not familiar," one of them after-
ward wrote. The other man was the dreamer,
who made his dreams come true; the mystic,
who dreamed of the swift ship carrying him to
a dark shore before the battles of Antietam,
Gettysburg, Vicksburg, and the night before
his death; the thinker, who walked the streets
wrapped in solitude, not seeing his best friends,
but looking beyond the horizon and pondering
in his own mind through many a lonely night
the great problem of slavery. It was this
Lincoln whom few even of his best friends
knew. To the day of his death some of them
persisted in beheving that his greatness was
an accident or a miracle. Lincoln's own words
throw light on what were the guiding motives
of his inner life:
The better part of one's life consists of our friend-
he wrote to Judge Gillespie.
I would have the whole human race your friend and
he said to his little son " Tad."
30 ABRAHAM LINCOLN: HIS STORY
If any man cease to attack me I never remember
his past agednst him,
he declared in one of his speeches.
Stand with anybody that stands right, and part
with him when he goes wrong,
he said to men who esteem their party more
than they do their principles.
The advice of a father to his son, "Beware of entrance
to a quarrel, but being in, bear it that the opposed
may beware of thee," is good, but not the best. Quarrel
not at all. No man resolved to make the most of him-
self can spare time for personal contention. Still less
can he afford to take all the consequences, including
the vitiating of his temper and the loss of self-control.
Yield larger things to which you can show no more
than equal right; yield lesser ones, though clearly your
own. Better give your path to a dog than be bitten by
him in contesting the right. Even killing the dog would
not cure the bite.
So he WTote, and so he Hved.
He trained himself into a habit of sympathy.
No man with whom he talked even for a few
moments but felt that Lincoln was genuinely
interested in him. Men trusted him for that,
and because they saw by his everyday life that
his sympathy was not put on but real. We
like to read of the time in Springfield when he
found a child sobbing on the porch of her home.
She was to take her first railroad trip. The
family had gone on and the hackman had for-
gotten to call for her trunk. There was no
THE MAN 31
time to get him before the train went. Lincohi
shouldered the trunk and carried it on his back
down to the station, arriving just in time to
catch the train. This habit of kindness never
left him all his life through. He was merciful
in the merciless days of the Civil War. He
pardoned men condemned for cowardice in
battle. "If God Almighty gives a man a cow-
ardly pair of legs," he said, "how can he help
He allowed no boys of eighteen to be shot
for desertion. Once when a man was con-
demned to death for sleeping at his post he
drove ten miles in the middle of the night to
make sure that his telegram pardoning him
had been received. On the very day of his
death he said at a Cabinet meeting, when the
treatment of the Confederate leaders was under
discussion: "Enough lives have been sacrificed.
We must extinguish our resentments."
Thirty-six hours after the fall of Richmond
Lincoln visited the place and sought out the
home of General Pickett, who had made the
great charge at Gettysburg. Lincohi had
known him as a boy. He found the house and
knocked at the door. "Is this where George
Pickett lives?" he asked a woman who came
to answer the door with a baby in her arms.
She said that it was and that she was Mrs.
32 ABRAHAM LINCOLN: HIS STORY
Pickett. "I am Abraham Lincoln, George's
old friend," he said. Then he took the baby
in his arms and told Mrs. Pickett that every-
thing would be done to make her comfortable
and her home safe.
It is this simplicity and kindness which com-
panions Lincoln forever in om* thoughts with
the gentle and heroic of older lands, so that of
him John Bright, the Enghsh statesman, wrote :
"In him I have observed a singular resolution
honestly to do his duty, a great courage, a great
gentleness under the most desperate provoca-
tions, and a pity and mercifulness to his ene-
mies. His simplicity did much to hide his
A 1VLA.N stands revealed by his work. For
twenty-three years Abraham Lincoln practiced
law and sowed the harvest which the nation
reaped in his presidency.
He was admitted to the bar in 1836, and his
bar examinations consisted simply of an in-
quiry into his moral character. In those
frontier days judges and lawyers depended
more on common-sense than on common-law,
and most of the courthouses were log cabins.
A contemporary of Lincoln remembered that
when Judge Jolm Re^Tiolds sat in the Circuit
Court of Washington County, the sheriff
opened coml by coming to the door of the one-
room log-built courthouse and shouting to the
crowd outside: "Come in, boys; our John is
a-goin' to hold court."
Another sheriff used to announce the open-
ing of court as follows: "Oh yes! Oh yes! Oh
yes! The Honorable Judge is now opened!"
One of the judges of Lincoln's time once
restored order in his court by leaving the bench
and thrashing the offenders, remarking as he
resumed his seat: "I don't know what power
34 ABRAHAM LINCOLN: HIS STORY
the law gives me to keep order in this court,
but I know very well the power God Almighty
has given me."
Another one of Lincoln's contemporaries
tells of a trial which he attended, when the
sheriff burst into the courtroom, out of breath,
and announced to the judge that he had six
jurors tied up and that his deputies were run-
ning down the others. Evidently, jury duty
was no more popular in Lincoln's day than it
is at present.
It was in such surroundings that Abraham
Lincoln began the practice of law. His legal
training dated back to the day when he bought
an old barrel for his store for fifty cents, and
discovered under some rubbish in the bottom
a complete set of Blackstone's Commentaries.
He afterward said that was the best stroke of
business he ever did as a storekeeper.
Some of the happiest years of Lincoln's life
were spent in walking or riding the circuit,
which embraced more than a dozen counties
and was one hundred and fifty miles broad.
Once before he was able to afford a horse he
was trudging along a frozen road toward a
county-seat, when he was overtaken by a man
in a wagon.
"Would you mind carrying my overcoat to
town for me?" inquired Lincoln, stopping him.
THE LAWYER 35
"Certainly," said the other, "but how will
you get it again?"
"Easy enough," replied Lincoln; "I'll stay
inside of it!"
Lincoln always had trouble in getting a bed
that was long enough for him. Once when trav-
eling by steamboat he found his usual difficulty
Mith his berth. During the day while Lincoln
was on deck the captain had it lengthened and
widened. The next morning Lincoln came to
breakfast much puzzled and said solemnly
that a great miracle had happened. During
the night he had shiunk at least a foot in length
and over six inches in breadth!
At the taverns the judge and lawyers sat at
one end of the table, while the witnesses and
prisoners, with the ordinary guests, sat at the
other. Lincoln, however, was often found at
the wrong end of the table among the common
folks. Once Judge Davis, who ruled the whole
bar with a rod of iron, tried to call Lincoln back
to his end of the table.
"Come up here where you belong, Lincoln,"
"Got anything better to eat at your end.
Judge?" drawled Lincoln, remaining where
He soon became one of the best known and
best liked men throughout this great expanse
36 ABRAHAM LINCOLN: HIS STORY
of country. In his hand he usually carried a
queer, old carpet-bag. Although he was al-
ways careless about his clothes he kept him-
self scrupulously clean, and had learned that a
man who shaves every day will go much farther
than one who does not. Sometimes his appear-
ance was against him, as when he was sent by
his first partner, Major Stuart, to try a case
in an adjoining county for one Baddeley, an
Enghshman. The latter, who was accustomed
to the bewigged, powdered, and gowned advo-
cates of his home-country, was disgusted to
find that he was to be represented by a tall,
awkward young man whose trousers were as
much too short as his coat was too large.
Baddeley immediately sent him back to Stuart
and retained someone else. He lived, however,
to become one of Lincoln's most enthusiastic
In 1850 Lincoln in a lecture to young lawyers
made some suggestions which are worth repeat-
The leading rule for a lawyer, as for the man of every
other calling, is diligence. Leave nothing for tomorrow
which can be done today. Never let your correspond-
ence fall behind. . . . Extemporaneous speaking should
be practiced and cultivated. It is the lawyer's avenue
to the public. However able and faithful he may be in
other respects, people are slow to bring him business
if he cannot make a speech. And yet there is not a
more fatal error to young lawyers than relying too
much on speech-making. If anyone, upon his rare
THE LAWYER 37
powers of speaking, shall claim an exemption from the
drudgery of the law, his case is a failure in advance.
Lincoln brought into the practice of his pro-
fession the same charity and kindness that he
had shown as a laborer, a storekeeper, and a
surveyor. A young lawyer tells about arguing
his first case in Chicago and making a failure
of it. After he had sat down in despair a com-
plete stranger to him came forward from the
back of the room and stated that, as a member
of the bar, he claimed the privilege of helping
a young man who was evidently embarrassed.
In spite of the protests of the lawyers on the
other side, the court allowed him to do this,
and he delivered a short, concise summing-up
of the case which won it for the novice. The
latter afterward found out that the stranger was
Abraham Lincoln from Springfield.
Lincoln also had the rare faculty of trying
a case without insulting or quarreling with his
opponent. During all the years of his practice
he never made an enemy of another lawyer.
The honesty of Lincoln's character was al-
ways evident in his practice. Once Herndon,
his young partner, had drawn up a dilatory
plea which would throw a case over at least
one term of court. "Is this founded on fact?"
demanded Lincoln. Herndon admitted that
it was not, but urged that it would save the
38 ABRAHAM LINCOLN: HIS STORY
interests of their clients if the delay was ob-
tained. "You know it is a sham," replied
Lincoln, "and a sham is very often another
name for a lie. Don't let it go on record. The
cm-sed thing may come staring us in the face
long after this suit has been forgotten."
Such scrupulous honesty Lincoln carried
through all his practice. It gave him a stand-
ing and a reputation which were worth more to
him than fine gold. He never made the mistake
that young lawyers sometimes make of sacri-
ficing a reputation for honesty for the sake of
winning a case. Moreover, unless he had
confidence in a case he would not take it.
Once when it was shown that his client had
been guilty of fraud he walked out of the court-
room and refused to continue the trial. The
judge sent a messenger, directing him to re-
turn, but he positively dechned. "Tell the
judge that my hands are dirty, and that I have
gone away to wash them," was the answer that
he sent back.
"Discourage htigation. Persuade your neigh-
bors to compromise whenever you can. Point
out to them how the nominal winner is often
a real loser — in fees, expenses, and waste of
time. As a peacemaker the lawyer has a
superior opportunity of being a good man.
There will still be business enough." So
Lincoln in Early Manhood.
THE LAWYER 39
Lincoln lectured, and no man at the bar ever
carried out this advice more conscientiously.
Once he was asked to collect a claim of two
and a half dollars and his client insisted, against
Lincoln's advice, that suit be brought. Lincoln
thereupon gravely demanded ten doUais as a
retainer. Half of this he gave to the defendant,
who then confessed judgment and paid the
two and a half. By this method he satisfied
"Yes, there is no reasonable doubt that I can
gain your case for you," he said to another
client, who had stated a case which Lincoln
thought an objectionable one. "I can set a
whole neighborhood at loggerheads; I can dis-
tress a widowed mother and her six fatherless
children and thereby get for you six hundred
dollars, which rightfully belongs, it appears to
me, as much to them as to you. I shall not
take your case, but I will give you a little ad-
vice for nothing. You seem a sprightly, ener-
getic man. I would advise you to try your
hand at making six hundred dollars in some
The lawyer, however, who under-estimated
Lincoln at a trial soon found that he had made
a fatal mistake. Underneath Lincoln's hon-
esty, frankness, and fairness was a consummate
mastery of tactics, an intimate knowledge of
40 ABRAHAM LINCOLN: HIS STORY
human nature, and a broad grasp of legal prin-
ciples, which finally made him the leader of the
Illinois bar, "A stranger going into a court
when he was trying a case would after a few
minutes find himself instinctively on Lincoln's
side and wishing him success." This was the
way his methods impressed an associate.
Lincoln's mildness and good humor were
habitual, but woe be to him who relied on those
qualities to take a wrongful advantage of his
client. In a murder case in which he repre-
sented the defendant, the judge unexpectedly
made a ruling which was contrary to the de-
cisions of the Supreme Court and was most in-
jmious to Lincoln's client. A spectator de-
scribed what follows: "Lincoln rose to his feet
as quick as thought and was the most unearthly
looking man imaginable. He roared like a
lion roused from his lair and he said and did
more things in ten minutes than he ordinarily
said and did in an hour."
Perhaps the real secret of his succcvss at the
bar can best be summed up by the statement
of E. M. Prince, who had seen him try over a
hundred cases of all kinds:
Mr. Lincoln had a genius for seeing the real point in
a case at once and aiming steadily at it from the be-
ginning of a trial to the end. The issue in most cases
lies in very narrow compass, and the really great lawyer
disregards everything not directly tending to that issue.
THE LAWYER 41
The mediocre advocate is apt to miss the crucial point
in his case and is easily diverted by minor matters.
Mr. Lincoln instinctively saw the kernel of every case
at the outset, never lost sight of it, and never let it
escape the jury.
Often he clinched his point with some anec-
dote which so riveted it in the minds of the
jury that it could not be dislodged by any
amount of eloquence from his opponent. There
was the case where he appeared for a defendant
who was charged with assault and battery. It
was proved that the plaintiff, who had been
seriously injured, had made the first attack,
but his lawyer argued that the defendant
should not have defended himself so force-
"That reminds me of the man who was attacked by
a farmer's dog, which he killed with a pitchfork," com-
mented Lincoln. " 'What made you kill my dog .3'
demanded the farmer. 'What made him try to bite
me?' said the other. 'But why didn't you go at him
with the other end of your pitchfork.^' persisted the
farmer. 'Well, why didn't he come at me with his
other end.^' was the retort."
Another time Lincoln disposed of the con-
tention that custom makes law with this anec-
Old Squire Bagley from Menard once came to my
oflBce and said, "Lincoln, I want your advice as a
lawyer. Has a man what's been elected a justice of
the peace a right to issue a marriage license?" I told
him he had not. "Lincoln, I thought you was a law-
42 ABRAHAM LINCOLN: HIS STORY
yer," he retorted. "Bob Thomas and me had a bet
on this thing and we agreed to let you decide it; but
if that is your opinion, I don't want it, for I know a
blame sight better. I've been squire now eight years,
and I've done it all the time!"
The case of Duff Armstrong, who was ac-
cused of murder, well shows Lincoln as a man
and as a lawyer. Duff was the son of Jack
Armstrong, the leader of the Clary Grove gang,
whom Lincoln had once whipped in a fight
when he was working as a clerk at New Salem.
Afterward Jack and he had become firm friends.
Duff and two others named Norris and Metzker
had been drinking and there had been a free
fight. Metzker had been struck over the head
with a club by Norris and had received other
injuries. Norris had already been convicted
of manslaughter and the case looked bad for
Duff Armstrong, who claimed that although
he had struck Metzker with his fist he had
not been guilty of the injuries which had
caused the former's death.
Jack Armstrong by this time had died, and
his widow appealed to Lincoln. He was in the
middle of a poHtical campaign, but he dropped
everything to help the son of his old friend. At
the trial a witness by the name of Allen took
the stand and swore that he had actually seen
Duff strike Metzker a blow with a blackjack.
On cross-examination Lincoln brought out the
THE LAWYER 43
fact that the fight had occurred at about eleven
o'clock at night, away from any house or light.
Then he asked the witness how he had been
able to see the occurrence so plainly. "By the
moonlight," answered the witness.
Under further cross-examination Lincoln had
Allen locate the position of the moon and testify
that it was about full. Lincoln asked him no
further questions and scarcely cross-examined
the other witnesses, none of whom had actually
seen the fight. Under the law of Illinois at that
time the defendant was not permitted to take
the stand himself. As Lincoln allowed wit-
ness after witness to testify, with scarcely a
word of cross-examination, all the spectators
in the courtroom felt that the case against
Armstrong was hopeless. This feeling became
a certainty when Lincoln announced that he
would call no witnesses, and had only one ex-
hibit to offer in evidence. This exhibit, how-
ever, turned out to be an almanac which
showed that the moon was only in its first
quarter and nearly set. Making but one point
— the complete discrediting of the only eye-
witness — Lincoln summed up to the jury and
acquitted his client.
There can be no better ending to an account
of Lincoln's life as a lawyer than the advice
which he once gave to young lawyers:
44 ABRAHAM LINCOLN: HIS STORY
Let no young man choosing the law for a calling
yield to the popular belief that a lawyer cannot be an
honest man. If in your judgment you cannot be an
honest lawyer resolve to be honest without being a
lawyer. Choose some other occupation.
It was Abraham Lincoln's speaking which
made him the President of the United States.
His first speech when he was twenty-three
years old raised him out of the ranks of day-
laborers in his tiny town. Later his speeches
sent him to the state legislature, to Congress,
and to the White House, and pointed out the
path which this nation followed and is still
following, although Lincoln has been in his
grave for more than half a century.
How did he do it? How did this awkward,
poor, uneducated man, with a bad speaking
voice which often broke, make himself the
greatest orator of his day? How did he deliver
the Gettysburg Address, "which will live until
languages are dead and lips are dust"? His
methods are plain and simple. Every boy and
every man, by following them, can make him-
self a speaker, and add to his influence with
men. Here are some of Lincoln's rules for
Don't shoot too high. Aim low and the common
people will understand you. They are the ones you
want to reach — at least they are the ones you oaghl
to reach. The educated and refined people will under-
46 ABRAHAM LINCOLN: HIS STORY
stand you, anyway. If you aim too high your ideas
will go over the heads of the masses and only hit those
who need no hitting.
As a lawyer he never used a word that the
dullest juryman could not understand. He
followed the same method as a speaker. At
Yale University the writer studied elocution
under Prof. Mark Bailey, who had taught his
father before him. Prof. Bailey first heard
Lincoln speak when he was stumping New
England for Fremont. He was so impressed
with Lincoln's power that he followed him from
town to town to hear him.
Finally he succeeded in having a talk with
him and asked him to explain his success as a
speaker. "Well, all I know," said Lincoln, "is
that when neighbors would come to my father's
house cind talk to father in language I did not
understand, I would become offended some-
times and I would find myself going to bed
that night unable to sleep. I bounded it on
the north, south, east, and west until I had
caught the idea, and then I said it to myself
and when I said it, I used the language I would
use when talking to the boys on the street."
That was one of the secrets of Lincoln's ora-
tory — ^the use of the small word. He never
used a big word when a little one would do. His
sentences were usually short and he spoke not
Barnard's Statue of I.incoln.
THE SPEAKER 47
to be heaid but to be understood. More than
fifty per cent, of the Avords used in his great
speeches are words of one syllable. He would
say, "I dug a ditch," instead of, "I excavated a
channel"; "I lost out by bad luck," instead of,
"I was defeated by a fortuitous combination
of circumstances." It is for this reason that he
is quoted more than any other American except
Frankhn, another master of short sentences.
In the Gettysburg Address, the greatest
short speech in the Enghsh language, he used
two hundred and seventy-one words. Of these
exactly two hundred are words of one syllable,
or almost seventy-four per cent. There are
whole Hues of short words, such as: "That
these dead shall not have died in vain." This
use of the short word gives his sentences a force
like the impact of a bullet.
Again, Lincoln was a master in the use of
Anglo-Saxon. We are not a Latin race and
the speaker or the writer who can use language
from our Saxon and Viking forebears will al-
ways most strongly appeal to us. Examine
some of Lincoln's best sentences, such as:
The father of waters again goes unvexed to the sea.
That this government of the people, by the people,
and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
As sm-e as God reigns and school-children read, that
black, foul he can never be consecrated into God's
48 ABRAHAM LINCOLN : HIS STORY
There is hardly a word from the Latin or the
Greek in them.
The use of quaint, homely sirailies and illus-
trations was another of Lincoln's methods.
When the mayor of New York, in the panic
and bewilderment which followed the breaking
out of the CivU War, proposed that New York
City be taken out of the Union and made a
free city — another Hamburg — Lincoln dis-
posed of the plan in one sentence :
It will be some time before the front door sets up
housekeeping on its own account.
When his plan of reconstruction was objected
to as not elaborate enough, Lincoln defended
it with an illustration:
Admit that my policy is in the beginning to what
the final policy will be in the end as an egg is to the
chicken. Don't you think that you will get the ciiicken
quicker by hatching the egg than by smashing it?
His speeches were full of homely epigrams
which needed only to be heard to be admitted,
and which stuck forever in his hearers' mem-
God must have loved the common people, for he
made so many of them.
You can fool all of the people some of the time, and
some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool
all of the people all of the time.
THE SPEAKER 49
Anything that argues me into social and poh'tical
equality with the negro is but a specious and fantastic
arrangement of words, as if a man could prove a horse-
chestnut to be a chestnut horse.
Again he would crystallize his whole argu-
ment into a single sentence:
Among free men there can be no successful appeal
from the ballot to the bullet.
We must not promise what we ought not, lest we
be called upon to perform what we cannot.
We will say to the Southern disunionist, "We won't
go out of the Union and you shan't!"
I protest against the counterfeit logic which con-
cludes that because I do not want a black woman for
a slave, I must necessarily want her for a wife.
On the platform as in court Lincoln could
retort severely if the occasion demanded it.
When only twenty-six years of age he was once
bitterly attacked at a political meeting by a
sarcastic speaker of great local reputation, who
had changed his politics and by so doing had
been appointed Register of the Land Office.
Moreover, he had the distinction of owning
the only lightning-rod in the county. \Mien
Lincoln came to reply he said:
I am yoimg in years but younger in the tricks and
trade of a politician. IA\e long or die young, however,
I would rather die now than like the last speaker change
my politics in order to receive three thousand a year
and then have to erect a lightning-rod over my house
to protect my guilty conscience from an offended God.
50 ABRAHAM LINCOLN: HIS STORY
Like Franklin, Lincoln possessed in an ex-
traordinary degree the power of persuasion.
Can anything be more appealing, more frank,
more void of offense, than his appeal to the
South in his First Inaugural Address?
Can aliens make treaties easier than friends can
make laws? Can treaties be more faithfully enforced
between aUens than laws can among friends? ... I am
loath to close. We are not enemies but friends. We
must not be enemies. Though passion may have
strained it must not break om* bonds of affection. The
mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-
field and patriot grave to every Uving heart and hearth-
stone all over this broad land, wiU yet swell the chorus
of the Union when again touched, as surely they wiU be,
by the better angels of our nature.
Like Franklin, too, Lincoln possessed the
tact of a true statesman. The night of Lee's
surrender at Appomattox there was a wild
time in Washington. A band serenaded the
President, playing various patriotic airs, such
as "Columbia" and "The Star-Spangled Ban-
ner." When Lincoln was called upon to speak
he turned to the bandmaster and said: "Play
'Dixie' now. It's ours again."
Another secret of Abraham Lincoln's strength
as a speaker was the fact that he had saturated
his mind with the two great masterpieces of
English Uterature, the King James' Version of
the Bible and Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress.
Lincoln read and reread, again and again, both
THE SPEAKER 51
of these books until they became for him a
storehouse to which he turned unconsciously
for words, and phrases, and ideas. A part of
his great speech in 1857 on the Dred Scott
Decision of the Supreme Court, which, in effect,
took away the last rights of the negro, might
have been written by Bunyan :
All the powers of earth seem rapidly combining
against the black man. Mammon is after him; am-
bition follows, philosophy follows, and the theology of
the day is fast joining in the cry. They have him in the
prison house; they have searched his person and left
no prying instrument with him. One after another
they have closed the heavy iron doors upon him; and
now they have him, as it were, bolted in with a lock of
a hundred keys, which cannot be unlocked without
the concurrence of every key; the keys in the hands of a
hundred different men, and they scattered to a hundred
different places; and they stand, musing as to what in-
vention in all the dominions of mind and matter can
be produced to make the impossibiUty of escape more
complete them it is.
Who but one nourished on the imagery of
the Bible could have spoken as Lincoln did in
his first reply to Senator Douglas in 1854.^
These principles cannot stand together. They are
as opposite as God and Mammon, and whosoever
holds to the one must despise the other. . . . Our
Repubhcan robe is soiled and trailed in the dust. Let
us purify it. Let us turn and wash it white in the spirit
if not the blood of the Revolution.
Last and first and all the time Lincoln's
power lay in the fact that he always had some-
52 ABRAHAM LINCOLN: HIS STORY
thing to say. He thought things out for him-
self, instead of accepting other men's con-
clusions. In 1856, at the first convention of
the Republican party, he delivered a speech
which cast such a speU over his audience that
even the reporters forgot to take notes. For
years it was known as the "Lost Speech."
Finally in recent years a report of it was found.
Across the years the echo of it thrills us today.
Every young man should read Abraham Lin-
coln's speech of May 19, 1856, which created
a great party and outlined principles that this
country has made a part of itself.
It was on November 19, 1863, that Lincoln
reached his full height as an orator. The
national cemetery at Gettysburg was to be
dedicated. Edward Everett had spoken for
two hours, furbishing up old ideas and redress-
ing old thoughts with wonderful rhetoric and
eloquence. Then Lincoln spoke for five min-
utes. Today no one remembers a sentence, a
line, or an idea from Everett's speech. Read
what Lincoln said, and note how every sentence
rings true and famihar, like some oft-heard
chapter of the Bible:
Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought
forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in
liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men
are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great
civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation
THE SPEAKER 53
so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We
are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have
come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final rest-
ing-place for those who here gave their lives that that
nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper
that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can-
not dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow,
this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who
struggled here have consecrated it far above oiu* poor
power to add or detract. The world will little note
nor long remember what we say here, but it can never
forget what they did here. It is for us the hving, rather,
to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they
who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is
rather for us to be here dedicated to the greet task re-
maining before us — that from these honored dead we
take increased devotion to that cause for which they
gave the last full measure of deA^otion — that we here
highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in
vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth
of freedom, and that government of the people, by the
people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
It has been well said that the difference be-
tween a politician and a statesman is that a
politician tries to make the people do something
for him, while a statesman tries to do some-
thing for the people. Applying this test Abra-
ham Lincoln was always a statesman. In his
first speech in 1832, when he was only twenty-
tliree years old, he declared:
Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition.
Whether it be true or not I can say for one that I have
no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of
my fellow-men by rendering myself worthy of their
It was the recognition that he was really
trying to serve them and not himself which
gave him the confidence of the people. More-
over, he had the same trust in the people that
they had in him.
Why should there not be a patient confidence in
the ultimate justice of the people.^* ... Is there any
better or equal hope in the world.**
he asked in one of his speeches.
Honesty was the policy on which he founded
his pubhc life. In 1834, when he was first
elected to the Illinois legislature, his friends
THE STATESMAN 55
raised a fund of two hundred dollars for his
election expenses. After the campaign was
over he returned to them $199.25 of this fund.
In 1836 he first showed in pubhc life that moral
courage which was to carry him so far. A bill
was introduced to move the capital of Illinois
to Springfield, which was Lincoln's home and
where he and all his constituents wished the
capital to be. Another measure, of which he
did not approve, was joined as a rider to this
bill, in the hope that it might be passed.
Lincohi refused to vote for it. An all-night
meeting was held and great pressure brought
to bear upon him by prominent citizens from
all over the state. Finally, after midnight,
Lincoln rose amid profound silence and made an
earnest speech, ending with this statement of
one of the abiding principles of his pohtical
You will never get me to support a measure which
I believe to be wrong, although by so doing I may ac-
comphsh that which I beheve to be right.
In 1837 he again had a chance to show his
moral courage against odds. Incidentally he
began to carry out the promise which he had
made when he first saw slaves sold on the block.
A few men had met together in Boston and,
protesting against slavery, had pledged them-
selves to fight for its abolition. It seems strange
56 ABRAHAM LINCOLN : HIS STORY
in these days, when all men are free as a matter
of course, to read of the fire and fury that arose
against the Abolitionists in both the North
and the South. A mob of prominent citizens
dragged WUliam Lloyd Garrison, one of the
first of the Abohtionists, through the streets of
Boston with a halter around bis body, while in
Cincinnati the publication of an anti-slavery
paper was stopped by the simple process of
throwing the printing-press into the Ohio
River, and in Illinois an editor was murdered.
When a resolution was offered in the legis-
lature of Illinois, attacking abolition and de-
fending slavery, Lincoln and one other man
voted against it. Lincoln offered a counter-
resolution that the institution of slavery was
not only founded on injustice but was bad
policy. At that time he announced another
of his political principles:
The probability that we may fail in a worthy cause
is not a sufficient justification for our refusing to sup-
In 1847 Lincoln was elected to Congress.
His own estimate of himself and his life up to
that time is contained in a few lines prepared
for the Congressional Record, in contrast Avith
the pages of biography so often inflicted on
that publication. It ran as follows:
THE STATESMAN 57
Born, February 12, 1809, in Hardin County, Ky.
Profession, a lawyer.
Have been a captain of volunteers in Black Hawk
Postmaster in a very small office.
Four times a member of the Illinois legislature, and
a member of the Lower House of Congress.
In Congress he voted against the iniquitous
Mexican War, although his stand cost him a
re-election. He wrote to Herndon, his partner:
Would you have voted what you felt and knew to be
a lie? I know you would not. Would you have gone
out of the House — skulked the vote;' I expect not.
Lincoln returned to private hfe with his pop-
ularity shattered but with his conscience whole.
Apparently his principles had mustered him
out of public hfe forever.
Time went on. Stephen A. Douglas had
brought about in Congress a repeal of the
Missouri Compromise, which was an agree-
ment that slavery should be kept out of all
territory north of a certain parallel. Lincoln
was riding circuit when the news of the repeal
of this last safeguard against slavery was
brought to him. A friend who occupied the
same room with him that night told afterward
how Lincoln spent the evening discussing the
repeal and what it meant to the country.
When this friend woke up in the morning he
58 ABRAHAM LINCOLN: HIS STORY
saw Lincoln sitting just where he had left him
the night before. As if the conversation had
not been interrupted Lincoln said to him: "I
tell you, this country cannot continue to exist
half-slave and half-free."
That sentence became the keynote of his
convictions. From that night he again entered
politics. One of his friends was running for
re-election to Congress. Lincoln began to
speak for him and in aU of his speeches he at-
tacked the extension of slavery. Finally in
1858 he was nominated for the United States
Senate, for the seat then occupied by Douglas.
At a convention at Springfield he said:
I do not believe that this government can perma-
nently endure half-slave and half-free. I do not ex-
pect the house to fall, but I do expect it will cease to
This thought aroused men like a firebell at
midnight. There followed the great debate
between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A.
Douglas, rival candidates for the Senate. The
prize was the presidency of the United States.
The odds seemed overwhelmingly in favor of
Douglas. He was wealthy, a senator, a trained
debater with a magnificent voice, and the
leader of the Democratic party. Lincoln was
hardly known except as an able country law-
yer. Douglas traveled in a special train, car-
President Lincoln and General McClellan at Antietam,
October 2, 1.S62, Soon After the Battle.
Photograph by Brady From the collection of Frederick Hill
Mexerve. Xew York Citu.
THE STATESMAN 59
rying a cannon that announced his presence
at each town where he spoke. Lincohi was
likely to arrive shabby and haggard from an
all-night ride in a day-coach. At first the
rhetoric and eloquence of Douglas seemed to
give him the advantage. Little by little Lin-
coln began to win a verdict from his audiences
by the naked force of his arguments and his
pitiless logic. Finally, Lincoln propounded to
his opponent a question as unanswerable as
the one that Christ asked the Pharisees. Which-
ever way he answered it Douglas would inevit-
ably lose the support of either the North or the
South. Douglas tried to compromise. By so
doing he won the race for the senatorship but
lost the contest for the presidency later on.
"We accuse him for this," thundered Judah P. Ben-
jamin, the most able of the Southern senators. "Under
the stress of a local election his knees gave way, his
whole person trembled. His adversary stood upon
principle and was beaten; and lo, he is the candidate
of a mighty party for the presidency of the United
States. The senator from Illinois faltered. He got
the prize for which he faltered, but the grand prize of
his ambition today shps from his grasp because of his
faltering in his former contest; and his success in the
canvass for the Senate, purchased for an ignoble price,
has cost him the loss of the presidency of the United
There followed the convention and campaign
of 1860, and the election of Abraham Lincoln
to the presidency of the United States. Under
60 ABRAHAM LINCOLN : HIS STORY
the responsibilities and discipline of that great
office Lincoln reached his full stature as a
statesman and grew into the heroic figure
which has come down to us. Only a great man
could have shown the magnanimity and for-
getfulness of self which he showed to Seward, to
Stanton, to IMcClellan, and to a host of others.
Lincoln called political and personal oppo-
nents to office. His only test was whether they
could be of service to the country. Most of
his Cabinet and even his generals regarded his
election as an accident and himself as a coun-
try politician wholly unfitted to be President.
McClellan, one of Lincoln's first generals, was
a Democrat and had provided the special
trains on which Douglas had traveled during
his debates with Lincoln. When appointed a
general McClellan disregarded Lincoln's orders
and treated his chief in a way that but few men
could have borne. At one time when Lincoln
called at his house to see him on a critical mat-
ter, McClellan sent down word that he could
not be disturbed and calmly went to bed, leav-
mg the President of the United States to take
himseK home. Lincoln bore with him, however,
until the very last, hoping against hope that he
would finally learn to lead the armies of the
Union to a victory. To one vfho urged him to
discipline the general for his insolence, Lincoln
THE STATESMAN 61
merely said: "I will stand outside and hold
McClellan's horse for him if he will only bring
Seward was called to become Secretary of
State. He was the recognized leader of the Re-
publican party, a candidate for the presidency,
and in the Cabinet expected to be the power be-
hind the throne. Compassionating what he
supposed to be Lincoln's weakness, Seward
actually wrote him a letter, proposing to take
charge of the government and become acting-
President. Lincoln refused this extraordinary
suggestion, but with so much tact and kindness
that he made Seward one of his warmest sup-
porters and was able to avail himself of his
great talents for the country's good. It was only
a few weeks after this letter that the Secretary
of State wrote to Mrs. Seward: "The President
is the best of us all."
Throughout his presidency Lincoln refused
to treasure up any personal injury and utilized
even his enemies to help him save the country.
He kept Chase as Secretary of the Treasury
even when he knew that he was plotting to
secure the nomination for the presidency.
Lincoln had first met Edwin M. Stanton
when he had been retained with the latter in
one of the most important cases of his legal
career. "Where did that long-armed creature
62 ABRAHAM LINCOLN: HIS STORY
come from, and what does he expect to do in
this case?" demanded Stanton after they had
met in Cincinnati, speaking so loudly as to be
heard by Lincoln through an open door in the
hotel. As a result of his contemptuous treat-
ment of Lincoln, the latter was sidetracked
and Stanton made the argument. After Lin-
coln had been elected President, Stanton, who
had served in Buchanan's Cabinet, wrote and
spoke of him with the utmost bitterness and
disdain, referring to him in his letters as a
"goriDa." Yet it was Stanton whom Lincoln
called to be Secretary of War. Even after his
appointment Stanton treated the President
with marked disrespect. Once when Lincoln
released some prisoners without regard to
Stanton's wishes, the latter said that the only
thing left to do was "to get rid of that baboon
in the White House."
"I wouldn't endure that insult," said an
indignant friend who reported the matter to
the President. "Insult? That is no insult,"
returned Lincoln. "All he said was that I was
a baboon, and that is only a matter of opinion,
sir." Then he added after a pause, "The thing
that concerns me most is that I find that Stan-
ton is usually right." Yet Stanton hved to say
at Lincoln's bier: "There lies the greatest
leader of men the world has ever seen."
THE STATESMAN 63
In the presidency, as outside, Lincoln was
great enough to do the right thing even when
the whole country was against him. When the
commander of a Union vessel took the Con-
federate commissioners. Mason and SlideU, by
force from a British steamer, the North made a
hero of the officer. Lincoln realized instantly
that this act was of the same class as those
committed by Great Britain which brought on
the War of 1812. In spite of the clamor of the
whole country he restored the Confederate
commissioners to Great Britain and disavowed
He who looks ever into the far future and
seeks constantly to know the eternal purposes
of life wins to a clearer vision than ordinary
men. It was so with Abraham Lincoln. Listen
to some of the messages that he has left for us
of another generation:
No man is good enough to govern another person
without that other's consent.
This is a world of compensation. He who would
be no slave must be content to have no slave. Those
who deny freedom to others deserve it not themselves,
and under a just God cannot long retain it;
It is best for all to leave each man free to acquire
property as fast as he can. I don't beheve in a law to
prevent a man from getting rich. It would do more
harm than good. I want every man to have a chance
to better his condition.
64 ABRAHAM LINCOLN: HIS STORY
Repeal the Missouri Compromise; repeal all the
compromises; repeal the Declaration of Independence;
repeal all past history — you still cannot repeal human
Like Moses, Luther, and Washington, Lin-
coln became a great leader of men only when
he surrendered himself to God. His mother,
Nancy Hanks, was a Christian woman. Of her
he said: "I remember her prayers and they
have always followed me. They have clung
to me all my life."
As a boy he read his Bible and attended
church when he could. In those days he
learned the hymns which were his favorites
throughout life, "Am I a Soldier of the Cross?"
and "There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood."
During his early manhood he drifted into a
temporary indifference toward rehgious mat-
ters. Yet even through this time he read and
reread his Bible, and his later hfe showed what
it did for him.
Take all of this book upon reason that you can and
the balance on faith and you will live and die a happier
Lincoln wi'ote to a skeptical friend.
Another great war president of our own
time has borne testimony about this Book oi
books, which Lincoln would have echoed in the
last vears of his life:
66 ABRAHAM LINCOLN: HIS STORY
The Bible is the Word of life. I beg that you will
read it and find this out for yourselves. Read, not
little snatches here and there, but long passages that
will really be the road to the heart of it. You will not
only find it full of real men and women, but also of
the things you have wondered about and been troubled
about all your life, as men have been always; and the
more you read the more it will become plain to you
what things are worth while and what are not; what
things make men happy — loyalty, right dealings, speak-
ing the truth, readiness to give everything for what they
thmk their duty, and, most of all, the wish that they
may have the approval of the Christ, who gave every-
thing for them; and the things that are guaranteed to
make men unhappy — selfishness, cowardice, greed,
and everything that is low and mean. When you have
read the Bible you will know that it is the Word of
God, because you will have found it the key to your own
heart, your own happiness, and your own duty.
Lincoln's period of indifTerence was followed
by an awakening to higher things. In 1842 he
wrote to his friend Speed a letter in which he
I beheve God made me one of the instruments of
bringing Fanny and you together, which union I have
no doubt he had foreordained. Whatever he designs
he will do for me yet. "Stand still and see the salvation
'of the Lord" is my text just now.
More and more Lincoln's speeches became
tinged with religious thought. In 1856 in the
"Lost Speech" he said:
The stars in their courses, aye, an invisible power,
greater than the puny efforts of men, will fight for us.
. . . Our moderation and forbearance will stand us in
good stead when, if ever, we must make an appeal to
battle and to the God of hosts.
Lincoln and His Son " Tad."
From photograph taken while Lincoln was President.
THE CHRISTIAN 67
At last, preferred to all the great leaders of
his party, he was made the President of his
country. The sheer wonder of it made him
know that he had been chosen of God for a
I cannot but know what you all know that without
a name, perhaps without a reason why I should have a
name, there has fallen upon me a task such as did not
rest even upon the father of his country; and so feeUng
I cannot but turn and look for that support without
which it will be impossible for me to perform that great
task. I turn, then, and look to the great American
people and to that God who has never forsaken them.
His farewell to his friends at Springfield as he
left to go to Washington shows as does nothing
else the new spirit of his life. As with the
friends of the Apostle Paul at Miletus, many
of them "wept sore, . . . sorrowing most of all
for the words which he spake, that they should
see his face no more." To them he said :
My Friends: No one not in my situation can appre-
ciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this
place, and the kindness of these people, I owe every-
thing. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and
have passed from a young to an old man. Here my
children have been born, and one is buried. I now
leave, not knowing when or whether I may ever return,
with a task before me greater than that which rested
upon Washington. Without the assistance of that
Divine Being who ever attended him I cannot succeed.
With that assistemce I caimot fail. Trusting in him,
who can go with me and remain with you, and be every-
where for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet
be well. To his care commending you, as I hope in
your prayers you will conmaend me, I bid you an afi'ec-
68 ABRAHAM LINCOLN: HIS STORY
From that day a new life begins for him —
the life of a devoted Christian. "I have been
driven many times to my knees," he later
wrote, "because I had nowhere else to go."
Again he declared:
I would be the veriest blockhead if I thought I could
get through with a single day's business without relying
upon Him who doeth all things well.
This spirit shows constantly throughout all
his duties. To a Missouri delegation he said:
I desire to so conduct the affairs of this administra-
tion that if at the very end, when I come to lay down the
reins of power, I have lost every friend on earth, I shall
have at least one friend left — my conscience.
When a minister, representing a visiting del-
egation, said to him that he hoped the Lord
was on theu' side, Mr. Lincoln replied:
I am more concerned to know whether we are on the
Constantly he sought for the sympathy, and
the prayers, and the help of all Christian peo-
ple. A minister from a little village in central
New York State called to tell him that every
Christian father and mother was praying for
him every day. The tears filled Lincoln's eyes
as he thanked his visitor and said:
But for these prayers I should have faltered and
perhaps failed long ago. Tell every father and mother
you know to keep on praying and I will keep on fighting.
THE CHRISTIAN 69
After the Emancipation Proclamation had
been signed he said to some men who had called
to congratulate him on the success of the Union
On many a defeated field there was a voice louder
than the thundering of cannon. It was the voice of
God crying, "Let my people go." We were all very
slow in reaUzing that it was God's voice, but after
many humiliating defeats the nation came to believe
it as a great and solemn command. Great multitudes
begged and prayed that I might answer God's voice
by signing the Emancipation Proclamation, and I did
it, believing that we should never be successful in the
great struggle unless we obeyed the Lord's command.
Since that the God of battles has been on our side.
Just before the Battle of Gettysburg all of
the members of the Cabinet were in a state of
terrible anxiety. General Lee with a power-
ful army had swept up into Pennsylvania. On
the eve of the battle General Meade, almost
an untried general, had been placed in com-
mand, A defeat meant the loss of the Capital
and perhaps the occupation of Philadelphia
and even New York. Everywhere was panic.
Only Lincoln remained unmoved and unafraid.
After the battle he told General Sicldes the
reason of his confidence:
In the pinch of your campaign up there, when every-
body seemed panic-stricken and nobody could tell what
was going to happen, I went to my room one day and
locked the door and got down on my knees before
Almighty God, and prayed for victory at Gettysburg.
I told turn that this was his war, and our cause his
70 ABRAHAM LINCOLN: HIS STORY
cause, but that we could not stand another Fredericks-
burg or Chancellorsville. Then I made a vow to Al-
mighty God that if he would stand by our boys at
Gettysburg, I would stand by him, and he did stand
by you boys and I will stand by him. And after that,
I don't know how it was and I can't explain it, but soon
a sweet comfort swept into m.y soul that God Almighty
had taken the whole business into his own hands, and
that is why I have no fears about you.
To Chittenden, the Register of the Treasury,
That the Almighty does make use of human agencies,
and directly intervenes in human affairs, is one of the
jjlainest statements in the Bible. I have had so many
evidences of his direction, so many instances when I
have been controlled by some other power than my
own will, that I cannot doubt that this power comes
from above. I frequently see my way clear to a deci-
sion when I am conscious that I have not sufficient facts
upon which to found it. I am satisfied that when the
Almighty wants me to do or not to do a particular
thing, he finds a way of letting me know it.
It was this deep and achieved faith in God
that made John Hay, who had been one of his
private secretaries, say of him:
Abraham Lincoln, one of the mightiest masters of
statecraft that history has known, was also one of the
most devoted and faithful servants of Almighty God
who have ever sat in the high places of the world.
Only a Christian could have written the
letter which he sent to a Mrs. Bixby, who had
lost five sons in the service. It is copied in
letters of gold on the walls of a great English
THE CHRISTIAN 71
I have been shown in the flies of the War Department
a statement of the Adjutant-General of Massachusetts
that you are the mother of five sons who have died
gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and
fruitless must be any words of mine which should at-
tempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so over-
whelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you
the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the
Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly
Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement,
and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved
and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to
have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.
Yours very sincerely and respectfully,
Time went on. The war was drawing to its
close. On the day of the receipt of the news of
Lee's surrender the President held a meeting
of the Cabinet. Neither Lincoln nor any mem-
ber was able for a time to speak. Finally, at
the suggestion of the President, all dropped on
their knees and thanked God in silence and in
tears for the victory that he had granted to the
Union. It is doubtful whether there is any
other recorded instance where the meeting of
the Cabinet of a great country ended in
The victories of the Union arms re-elected
Lincoln as President. In his Second Inaugural
Address he reached heights not achieved before,
when looking back over four years of war,
hatred, and calumny he was yet able to say:
72 ABRAHAM LINCOLN: HIS STORY
The Almighty has his own purposes. If we shaU
suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses
which in the pro\'idence of God must needs come, but
which, having continued through his appointed time,
he now wills to remove, and that he gives to both North
and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by
whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any
departure from those divine attributes which the be-
lievers in a Uving God always ascribe to him? Fondly
do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty
scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God
wills that it continue until all the wealth piled up by
the bondman's two hundred and fifty years of unre-
qmted toil shall be simk, and until every drop of blood
drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn
by the sword, as was said three thousand years ago,
so still it must be said: "The judgments of the Lord are
true and righteous altogether."
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with
firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right,
let us strive on to finish the work we are now in, to bind
up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have
borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to
do aU which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting
peace among ourselves and with all nations.
In his last public speech of April 11, 1865,
Lincoln again testified to his faith and trust in
God. He said in part:
We meet this evening, not in sorrow, but in gladness
of heart. The evacuation of Richmond and Petersburg,
and the surrender of the principal insurgent army, give
the hope of a just and speedy peace, the joyous expres-
sion of which cannot be restrained. In all this joy,
however. He from whom all blessings flow must not
Three nights later in the state box at Ford's
Theatre he was talking to Mrs. Lincoln about
THE CHRISTIAN 73
a trip to the Holy Land. Just as he was saying
that there was no city which he so much wished
to see as Jerusalem, his words were cut short
by the fatal bullet. On the morning of April
15, 1865, he who had wept often but who had
never flinched nor faltered, went, not without
abundant entrance, into the presence of his
Lord. Edwin M. Stanton, the Secretary of
War and his onetime enemy, broke the silence
of the death-chamber and said :
Now he belongs to the ages.